Enjoy a Healthier Fall!

Despite the warmer temperatures, fall is here. You have probably noticed the Halloween candy displays at every entrance and exit to most stores and you can’t walk by any grocery store aisle without spotting some type of pumpkin spice flavored item: coffee, muffin mix, cereal, even hummus. I really love the flavors that come with fall, but unfortunately it is easy to overdo it, especially in an unhealthy ways. Many of the apple or pumpkin spice-flavored food items are just packaged and processed foods that contain more sugar that most people need on a daily basis per one serving!

Let’s get back to the basic foods and flavors of fall – apple and pumpkin. These are both healthy foods on their own in their natural forms. Apples are a seasonal sweet treat. Apples contain many healthful nutrients such as: potassium, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Apples are relatively low in calories per servings, 65 calories per one tennis ball sized apple. Apples are available in numerous varieties. Here is a guide to apple varieties and their flavor profiles. My favorite varieties are pink lady and honey crisp because I prefer a sweet and crisp apple. Since these varieties are naturally very sweet, I find if I use them in baking or to make homemade applesauce I tend to add less sugar to the recipe to encourage the natural sweetness from the apples.  I invite you to try some different varieties this year!

apples_400x400Photo c/o BBCGoodFood

Pumpkins are fun to carve and use as decorations during the fall season, but they can also be fun to eat! Pumpkins are a little intimidating for me to cook with because it takes quite a bit of effort to clean and cut into pumpkins, but fresh pumpkin is a nice treat that is worth the effort. Here is a helpful tutorial for using fresh pumpkin in recipes, particularly pureed, which can be added to soups, bread, muffins or even substituted as a side dish for mashed potatoes! Pumpkin contains high amounts of the carotenoid, beta carotene (hint: pumpkins are orange). Beta carotene has been shown to be helpful in preventing diseases like cancer and heart disease, it can also keep our skin looking fresh and young, and helps decrease inflammation in our bodies. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted in the oven for a high protein treat. You can eat the seeds plain or add a little cinnamon for some extra flavor. We used to roast our pumpkin seeds while carving our Halloween pumpkins on the kitchen floor with our dad as children. They were a fun treat to enjoy after we completed our jack-o-lantern masterpieces. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of fiber as well as zinc, manganese, phosphorus and copper. Pumpkins are much more than just pretty decorations!

Cinnamon and ginger are some popular spices typically paired along with pumpkins and apples this time of year. They are also full of health benefits all on their own. Both of these spices have been shown to alleviate inflammation in the body and cinnamon is helpful in controlling blood glucose in diabetes. They also provide a delightful flavor without adding extra sugar to recipes particularly in baking.

Even though pumpkin, apple, cinnamon and ginger influence certain seasonal flavored foods this time of year, let’s enjoy the real ingredients and some of their health benefits too! Fresh baked muffins and warm chili are great staples this time of year. These recipes include those natural fall flavors to give them added texture and flavor. I have made this Sally’s Baking Addiction apple muffin recipe in the past for a potluck and I was delighted by the simple, but added texture the fresh apples added to the muffins. I also felt like these muffins were a little more filling and satisfying than other recipes I had made in the past that did not call for the fresh grated apples. My sister has made a similar pumpkin chili recipe for a fall weekend get together and at first I thought, “pumpkin in chili?” She assured me that I would like it and she was right! The pumpkin adds a hint of sweetness to the chili that is not overpowering and I am a fan of adding more texture to recipes, so certainly the soft cooked pumpkin won me over.

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Yield: about 15 muffins

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour (includes cooling)

Hearty, healthy, and satisfying whole wheat muffins filled with sweet apples and plenty of cinnamon spice! These muffins are not intended to be super sweet, so keep that in mind.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (226g) whole wheat flour1 (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (64g) chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) pure maple syrup (not breakfast syrup, the real stuff)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable, canola oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup (60g) smooth unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (240g) shredded/grated apple (about 2 apples)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pecans together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, oil, applesauce, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stir a few times, and then add the grated apple. Fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  3. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them all the way to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 23-24 minutes, give or take. (For mini muffins, bake 11-13 minutes at 350°F (177°C).) Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to eat.

whole-wheat-apple-cinnamon-muffins-6

  1. Make ahead tip: Muffins stay soft, fresh, and moist in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up (if desired) before enjoying.

Pumpkin Chili

Recipe makes 8-10 servings.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Ready In: 1 hour and 30 minutes

  • 1 (3-pound) pie pumpkin, or other orange-fleshed squash such as butternut, Red Kuri, or Golden Hubbard
  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 medium turnips (about 12 ounces total)
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, such as Rotel
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans chili beans, drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    Several dashes of: vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Balsamic vinegar

For serving: chopped green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream

Directions:

  1. Peel the pumpkin or squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. (To make it easier to peel the pumpkin, cut in half, remove the seeds — and set aside for roasting! — and then microwave each half cut-side down in a shallow dish of water for 5 minutes, or roast the halves at 450°F for about 15 minutes.
  2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, shave off the skin with a sharp knife.)
  3. In a 6-quart or larger Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. When melted, whisk in the cornmeal until smooth, then stir in the pumpkin, turnip, bell peppers, onion, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the broth, diced tomatoes and their juices, beans, and corn. Stir in the chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring back to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour, or until the pumpkin and turnip are tender. (It gets even better if simmered longer — a whole afternoon, if you have the time.)
  5. Before serving, taste and season with salt and pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Serve hot with green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream if desired.
untitledPumpkin chili recipe and photo c/o The Kitchn

Post by Lemma

4 thoughts on “Enjoy a Healthier Fall!

    1. I tried both of these recipes today! They were perfect! I was happy that we had plenty of leftovers from the pumpkin stew and will be able to enjoy leftover tomorrow… I don’t know if the muffins will make it that long… Ian really likes them. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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